Using a power laser and innovative quantum mechanical computations, scientists at The Scripps Research Institute have measured the flexibility of mouse antibodies.

    The new technique is significant because protein flexibility is believed to play an important role in antibody-antigen recognition, which is a critical event in the human immune system.

    In the experiments, human antibodies were mixed with dye molecules. When the mixture is blasted with the laser, the dye molecules absorb energy and transmit some of this energy to the antibody.

    The energy is then absorbed by vibrating bonds within the protein. By comparing an excited spectra readout to a normal spectrum, TSRI scientists can asses how flexible particular parts of a protein are.

    The new technique appears in an article in an upcoming issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    UCSD links cardiac muscle growth to heart disease

    The same molecular components that trigger normal cardiac muscle growth are linked to an inherited form of human cardiomyopathy in which an enlarged heart loses its ability to pump blood, according to researchers at the UCSD School of Medicine.

    The cytoskeleton serves as the sensor for mechanical stress on the heart. According to the study, cardiomyopathy develops due to defects in a portion of the cytoskeleton known as the Z disc complex, which ordinarily acts to trigger the recovery of heart function.

    Specifically with defects in Z disc, a gene called muscle-specific LIM protein can be easily injured during the daily activity of the heart muscle, which can trigger heart failure.

    The study also identified this defect in the MLP gene as responsible for as much as 10 percent of the inherited forms of cardiomyopathy, especially in Germans. Because most of the causes of this form of heart failure are due to separate gene mutations, the current discovery makes this the largest mutation linked to cardiomyopathy.

    The study is published in the Dec. 27, 2002, issue of Cell.

    SD Supercomputer appoints executive director

    Alan R. Blatecky will take over as the executive director of the San Diego Supercomputer Center, according to SDSC Director Fran Berman.

    Blatecky will join the SDSC senior management team to help direct the SDSC’s programs in integrative biosciences, high-end computing, grid and cluster computing, integrative computational sciences, data knowledge systems and networking.

    Blatecky is a national and international leader in grid computing and networking. He currently directs the National Science Foundation’s Middleware Initiative, a pioneering program that is developing the foundation for new information technology and cyberinfrastructure.

    Blatecky also co-directs the inter-agency Middleware and Grid Infrastructure Coordination program group, which coordinates middleware and grid technologies throughout the U.S. government.

    Joseph elected as representative to NACADA

    Catherine Joseph, director of Academic Advising for Earl Warren College, has been elected administrative division representative of the National Academic Advising Association.

    As administrative division representative, Joseph will be responsible for leading and reporting on the six NACADA administrative and services committees: awards diversity, finance, membership, professional development and research.

    Joseph has been a member of NACADA since 1989.

    UCSD scientists connect diamonds to sulfur cycling

    Diamonds were found to preserve 3 billion-year-old information about the cycling of sulfur between the earth’s crust, atmosphere and mantle by scientists from the University of Maryland, UCSD and UCLA.

    The study reports that diamonds from a region in Botswana, Africa, contain a distinctive ratio of three isotopes of sulfur, the presence of which indicates that the sulfur went through a nearly complete geochemical cycle.

    The findings appear in the Dec. 20, 2002, issue of Science.

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